SPEECHES: Address by L N Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration at a meeting of the Tshwane branch of the Black Management Forum, 9 May 2013, Pretoria

Date: 10 May 2013

Ms Koko Khumalo (BMF Deputy President)

Mr Nicolas Maweni (BMF Managing Director of BMF)

Mr Modise Moiloanyane (Chairperson of BMF Gauteng Province) and the Provincial Leadership

Ms Seipati Kau (Chairperson of BMF Tshwane) and the Branch Leadership

Ladies and Gentlemen

As the American novelist Lewis Sinclair has so aptly put it:

"the trouble with this country is that there are too many people going about saying 'the trouble with this country is' ... and not doing anything about it"`

Let me express my sincerest gratitude to the Black Management Forum for the invitation to share our view as government "Towards a Transformed Professional Public Service - Empowering the Nation.

We meet today on the eve of the historical 50th anniversary of the AU and its predecessor the OAU which will be celebrated on 25 May 2013. And significantly, we meet at the 10th anniversary of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), a uniquely African instrument that is used by Heads of State, civil society and the business sector, such as yourselves to measure the effectiveness of governments. We meet against the backdrop of the World Economic Forum meeting in Cape Town, where continental and international businesses are locked in dialogue about the best possible ways to advance the African economic agenda in order to create prosperity for its people. We unfortunately also meet at a time when our people's quest for a better life is manifested in various protests and strike actions aimed at being heard. In fact, we have heard them because we are one with them and are in tune with their concerns. Which is why over the past three years we have grappled with a diagnosis of our problems and we have finally, as a country, agreed on the adoption of the National Development Plan (NDP) and we are currently involved in the roll-out of this Plan. Because of our centrality in the Plan we are at the forefront of ensuring that the NDP materialises. At the centre of the NDP is "a strong and capable state and we have added to that "made up of dedicated, committed people. It was therefore a great joy to be invited by yourselves, whom we regard as natural and strategic partners, and it was only a pleasure to agree to be here.

We look to organisations such as BMF as our life-long partners and strategic allies in meeting the needs of our people. In fact it is precisely because of the support we have received from yourselves that we are who we are. Governments exist fundamentally to meet the basic and human needs of its people and to create an environment where they can exercise their right to life and right to freedom. These are the inalienable gains of the struggles of our people that government and we know organisations such as the BMF must cherish and protect.

In serving our people, we have experienced the complexities of governance as a result of the influences of the global economic and fiscal crises, increasing pressures on various levels of government to adequately and comprehensively respond to the growing social and economic needs - and at times demands - from our citizens for an improved and better life. The National Development Plan confirms this reality that a better life for all our citizens is only possible if government in partnership with businesses, civil society and through the innovative and harnessed energies of our communities address: poverty; inequality and unemployment.

Our task as the executive is to ensure that through appropriate, relevant and responsive public policies and legislation we consciously construct the features and components of a developmental state. Our understanding is that our constitutional democratic state must develop, regulate, supervise and be co-operative in the economic, educational, social welfare and political facets of life of our South African society. In pursuance of a caring and developmental state, we must ensure that state administration at all levels, in particular, that the public service and servants are effective, efficient, professional and capable. When public servants who work at home affairs and issue ID documents are constantly cognisant of the sacrifices and struggle of our people, then the struggles of Lilian Ngoyi and the many people who died in Sharpeville would not have been in vain. And when a nurse who attends to elderly patients treats them as if it was his /her own parent. When teachers are in class, on time, dressed like teachers, teaching. When a Director of Supply Chain Management looks after the resources of the state as he would the chickens on his farm. Then we'll know that we have turned ordinary people into a conscious movement, nurturing a capable state. These things must not be imagined they must be real and be part of the day to day experience of our people.

We have resolved therefore that one of the first things to do in the Public Service is to engage with this transformation of the Public Service into one that is accountable, pro-active, with an ingrained respectful service ethos, committing to serve government and our people.

One of our first encounters in this space was with labour and with them, through the 2012 Collective Agreement, we jointly committed that our citizens are entitled to have a professional public service rewarded for hard work, competence and commitment to the programmes of government and rewarded on the basis of value of money. One of the first in this direction of professionalisation of the public service is a Remuneration Committee on the Public Service to investigate salary levels and other associated employment benefits to public servants to ensure that public servants are appropriately remunerated. Here the notion of equal work for equal pay has been mooted. As a unitary sovereign nation it behoves us to create a single public service bound by the same ethos and professional standards.

As the Minister of Public Service and Administration, I have undertaken a radical reorganisation of the institutional arrangements of public service and administration environment with a view to positively impact on the internal administration and management systems, public servants outlook on their service-delivery responsibilities, and building overall capabilities among public servants. More specifically, we have established an Office for Standards and Compliance in the Public Service that will focus and promote a high standard of professional ethics and compliance to norms and standards across the public service based on existing policies and legislation. Our view is that this Office will detect, intervene and assist in developing managerial and supervisory systems, especially in the areas of human resource and financial management, including and specifically the service-delivery design, models and systems.

In essence, it is about building internal trust and public confidence that the public service at all levels of government has organisational and service delivery systems, management systems and practices. We want to encourage public servants behaviour that is consistent with policy programmes and the Constitution. Our view is that our citizens' contact and access to public services and goods must be similar across the length and breadth of our country, irrespective of whether it is in a metropole or rural village. It is for this reason that we have crafted legislation to allow for this uniformity of standards across the three spheres of government. The legislation, called the Public Administration Management Bill, will be tabled before Parliament at the latest by June 2013.

Together with the Office of the Public Service Commission increased attention will be given towards interventions that yield better compliance on declaration of interests and conflicts of interests by public servants at all professional categories and at all levels of government. As a government and given the challenges of socio-economic development faced by the majority of our citizens, double dipping of public servants into both the public and private sectors, will be not be allowed. Whether through consciously designed corruptive behaviour by certain - a serious minority - public servants, earning an additional salary to that of the main public salary on state time, these practices will no longer be allowed. I can assure you, you will no longer have public servants intruding into your space. The space you occupy and fought so hard to have, was carefully crafted so that those of you who are in the private sector can create wealth and grow jobs. The space that exists in the public service is specifically for people who are employed to provide government services, it was never intended to grow private wealth.

We are in full agreement with our citizens that the mismanagement, corruption and fraud of public resources in the public service are unacceptable and have to deal with contemptuously through application of law, systems and organisational change. As a result, I have established in consultation with Cabinet colleagues an Anti-Corruption Bureau for the public service. This Bureau will further spread the net of detecting, investigating and preventing anti-corruption and fraud in the public service. This Bureau as intended, will work closely with other law enforcement and corruption busting agencies of government such as the Special Investigation Unit, Asset Forfeiture, Financial Investigation Unit and the newly established Office of the Chief Procurement Office in the National Treasury.

In conjunction with our interventions to develop a professional, capable and ethical public service and servant, government is in the process of establishing a School of Government. This School will educate, train, professionalise and develop a highly capable, skilled, socially and committed public service cadreship with a sense of national duty and a common culture and ethos. As a recognition of our public need that there is a 'competency gap filling' among public servants that is urgent, the School will be established before the end of October this year. Our new School of Government will as a consequence seek to institutionalise a culture of professionalism and innovative thinking within the public service and serve as a catalyst for reform, modernisation and performance-oriented the public service. Regardless of your political orientation, religious background, rank or seniority, physical shape or size for as long as you are a public servant you will attend this school.

At this point of the evening is the point where you come in.

Given these specific interventions to build a transformed and professional public service, I not only recognise but will continue to search for such support from yourselves given your history of galvanising support to ensure that managers in general and black managers in particular, get the best management skills in order to play a meaningful role in the public and private sectors. Your steadfast approach in advocating for fundamental transformation has over the past twenty years contributed to legislation on affirmative action, black economic empowerment, and employment equity.

Given these achievements and many others by the BMF in our endeavour to transform South African society, industries and the overall state administration and public service, it is therefore apt of me as a representative of the citizens and the Executive, to task the BMF and its members with a number of national public obligations as an institution, citizens and tax payers, to:

  • Concretely and in demonstrable fashion help government and the citizens of our country, especially the poor and disadvantaged fight corruption and fraud where and whenever it emerge, not matter the volume and size. Where corruption exists, it is the resources specifically intended to improve the lives of our people that are being siphoned out of our systems.
  • Members and institutions associated with BMF to be committed to fair and transparent competition for government procurements by acting ethical, accountable and being free of collusive corruptive and fraudulent practices.
  • Serving as guardians of the people's resources, as both members and institutions associated with BMF, irrespective of the position the person - corruptors - hold in society, political office, public service. Help us to protect the public procurement systems and public servants.
  • Consider a voluntarily private sector service exchange programme by BMF members and leaders to the public sector as a form of social responsibility and skills transfer by encouraging management from business to dedicate time to the public service - it happens in the USA and other OECD countries where captains of industries given free time to the state. All in the interest of building a capable state and public service to the benefit of both society and building and expanding markets.
  • Sharing knowledge and insights from the BMF Research Institute especially the profile managerial best practice and profile of leaders in management that would support the Government in documenting best practice leadership programmes and to document success stories in the public sector.

I look forward to future interactions with the BMF in finding the energy, best practices, and ethical and good governance systems and behaviour in Building a Capable and Developmental State through a transformed professional service that continuous to empower our citizens, nation and country.

Dr J E K Aggrey, the great Ghanaian intellectual and writer of the 1920's, told a story of a meeting that God convened with the major rivers. In this meeting God asked each and every river where it wanted to be located. Great rivers took turns in pointing out where they wanted to be located. To cut a long story short, it was the turn of the Great Nile River. The Nile River told God, "Your Lordship assign me to Africa, to a continent in its twilight, to a people once great but who have now forgotten their greatness. (No sooner had it been assigned to Africa, the Great Nile lost its greatness too. It is now only known as the Nile River). And the moral of the story - do not forget we once were great and that it is still possible to restore that greatness to our people and our continent in our lifetime.

Thank you


Ndivhuwo Mabaya

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